Friday, December 11, 2009

On the Sensory Pleasures of a Book

Today at the store, I overheard a woman talking about her Kindle, that electronic device Amazon makes where you can download books and read them onscreen. I considered asking her if she liked the Kindle and might suggest it. Then I argued against myself, resolute in my old Hey-Kid-Get-Off-My-Lawn opinion that Kindles and like devices are an abomination against reading. I know that's not true, and as someone who fears the end of reading for pleasure, I know I should be happy people are reading any way they can. But I can't help it. Because you see, I love books. I'm not talking about the stories or characters or words. I'm talking about the actual object of a book.

I am currently reading Alex Ross's critically-honored history/listening guide to 20th-century classical music, The Rest is Noise. I'm only 20 pages in, but so far I love it. It's full of interesting facts. Did you know Tchaikovsky hated Wagner, for instance? But beyond the book's intellectual pleasures is its sensory delights. This book appeals to my senses in a way few have lately. It's cover has that nice not-glossy smoothness, and the pages almost feel silky, the print perfectly in place. The smell is quite lovely too - very papery and vaguely sweet. I can't help but participate in the sensory details of the book as I'm reading it - touching it, sniffing it, weighing it in my hands (did I mention it has a satisfyingly hefty weight to it?). My obsession might be a tad weird, but I can't help it.

So anyway, this post doesn't have much to do with anything. I just wanted to get out my Kindle frustration. And more importantly, I wanted to recommend you check out the trade paperback of The Rest is Noise, if only just to smell it and stroke it. Is that so inappropriate?

Yes, actually, I think it might be.


  1. I could not read books in digital form. I need pages. Books are like photographs, better in your hand than on a screen.